One of my favorite weekends away from Glasgow was our trip to Portugal’s Algarve region. We flew from Prestwick to Faro, Portugal early on a Saturday morning and flew back in the late morning on Monday. Our only agenda was to see the sun, which we managed to do the first day. Mainly we just wanted to be somewhere warmer to have a relaxed, chill weekend. Here’s what we did in gluten free Albufeira, Portugal!
We took an early flight out of Prestwick Airport, which claims to be Glasgow but is actually about 40 minutes away by car. There’s train service from Glasgow city center but sadly, not that early. We had to take an expensive taxi to get there. We arrived early, around 5 am for our flight at 7. We ate breakfast after security (it was not good) and marveled at all the bachelorette parties flying off for party weekends with their matching shirts. Here in Scotland it’s quite common to see people drinking beer or wine in the airport in the morning, and indeed, several women had their wine in hand at 6 am. Finally it was time to board for what should have been about a 3 hour flight.
We had expected to land in Faro at about 10:30, where our hotel had arranged a shuttle (additional cost) to pick us up to drive the 45 minutes to Albufeira. There was a medical emergency on our flight which forced an emergency landing in Birmingham (the man walked off the plane but it looked pretty bad for a minute there.) We were on the ground nearly two hours as paperwork was filed and our flight was fit into the air traffic schedule. We ended up landing in Faro around 1 pm.
We’d been able to email the hotel from the ground in Birmingham, so they were able to re-schedule the shuttle pickup. We couldn’t find our driver at first, and after 30 minutes we found her and learned she’d be caught in a traffic jam due to an accident on her way there. I think it was after 3 pm by the time we finally reached our hotel in Albufeira and got checked in! By that point we were just happy to be safe and sound.
We stayed at Dianamar, which is a lovely bed and breakfast with sea views from the top floor. The hospitality was incredible and the vibe was so peaceful and chill. They did a great breakfast spread, and put out coffee and cake (not gluten free, sadly) in the afternoons. We absolutely loved it there. Plus it was just outside, but in walking distance of the old town.
We dropped off our bags and changed into flip flops. Our first stop was lunch at O Penedo, a restaurant very near the B&B with a lovely patio overlooking the beach. The food was alright but the view was awesome. From there we took the stairs down to the beach and took a long, long walk along the coast. It’s sandy for a while, then turns rocky in places. We walked forever – I remember Praia dos Alemães and I think we walked just a bit past that. It felt like it took a million years to get back and we were exhausted. We cleaned up back at the hotel and set out for dinner. We were drawn into one of the many touristy places along the road into the old town. We ended up at Cabaz da Praia (The Beach Basket). We sat out on the patio overlooking the beach (though it was dark by then.) They had a sea bass special, so I ordered it, expecting a filet. Haha no, it was the whole fish, eyes and all! I had to put a carrot “blindfold” over the eye so I could cope with eating it. Rookie mistake! Albufeira is great for seafood, but pay attention to what you’re ordering if you don’t like your food to watch you.
After dinner we strolled around a little bit, but were still pretty beat from our travel adventures and the epic beach walk (walking on sand is hard, y’all!) We called it a night and headed back to the hotel.
The next morning (Sunday) we woke up with plans to lounge on the beach in the morning. Well, the stupid sun had other plans and it was overcast – for pretty much the whole day. It wasn’t cold, but it was too cool to really make a good beach day (the water was freezing) so we decided to explore the old town area on foot. After getting yelled at for using the restroom at a restaurant that wasn’t open yet (why are your doors/patios all set up and open if the restaurant is closed?) we stumbled across a little coffee shop and bakery called Sólida Fatia. Legend had an espresso and a pastry and was quite happy with both. They fashioned a mocha out of a latte plus a pack of hot chocolate for me, so that was nice. Plus the place was dead cheap and had a big outside seating area – definitely worth a stop for coffee!
We continued strolling and wandering through the various souvenir shops. Cork is big in Portugal and you’ll find several shops selling shoes, jewelry, bags and more made from it. We bought a set of really cool place mats in one of the random shops. After a few hours of roaming, we stopped for lunch at a burger place – I can’t remember the name and it didn’t seem to have a web presence. They did have really good fresh orange juice though.
After lunch, we walked back to the B&B for a nap. It was really nice with the breeze from the sliding glass door – amazingly quiet considering there were quite a few guests about and neighboring building are all very close by. Once we recharged, we headed back out in the other direction to visit the marina. There’s not a whole lot to see there, but we did have a coffee at a random café (more of an outdoor shack, really.)
From there, we walked back across into the old town again and this time, we discovered a giant escalator. When you take it up to the top you’ll be at Pau da Bandeira, a scenic overlook with views of the beach below. We continued our wander and stopped at a little Mexican place called Mi Sombrero for a snack (mostly I needed the bathroom). Skip that one. Eventually we decided it was time for dinner and found this all you can eat sushi place called Oishi. They had gluten free soy sauce and were able to accommodate my diet needs pretty handily, so it worked out well. It was nothing amazing but it was pretty good and it was inexpensive.
After dinner we walked back through the neighborhood and found that even at 9 pm on a Sunday night, there was still quite a lot going on. We found lots of live music and a lively bar scene. We checked out the different venues and musicians but didn’t find anything we were dying to stay and see. After about an hour of walking off our dinner, we decided to call it a night.
The next morning we pretty much had time for breakfast and then the shuttle was there to get us. We had another drama with the shuttle, as this time there was another guest to be picked up on the way back to the airport in Faro. He didn’t show up and we sat there for a good 15 minutes while the hotel tried repeatedly to call his room. We left him behind, only to get a call a couple minutes later that he finally turned up. He was filthy and stunk of alcohol, so I’m pretty sure he’d passed out from drinking the night prior. All that drama put us almost half an hour behind schedule, so I was getting a bit nervous about the timing. We did make it through the airport just fine, though there was a massive line to get through pass control on the way to the gates. In the end our flight was slightly delayed so we still sat and waited. We finally made it back to Prestwick in the early afternoon and took the train into the city centre to get home.
This was a really nice, mellow, relaxed trip (in between all the travel drama!) I’ve noticed that both Legend and I come back to life when we are in warmer, sunnier climates – we both grew up in hot, sunny places and the long stretches of drab, gloomy and cool weather in Scotland takes its toll on us. I was a little worried about not speaking the language, but Legend speaks Portuguese so that was fine. In the end, just about everyone spoke English anyway. It was a lovely break and I really enjoyed our visit to gluten free Albufeira!
Have you been to Portugal? What’s your favorite beach vacation? Tell me in the comments!